It hurts me to to see recent revelations of corruption, immorality, betrayal, or moral failures in leaders we trust and follow. Yet, what seems to pain me more is the slogan for these turbulent times that our culture thinks, “But everybody does it!” We could very well be NUMB to the idea that pastors who fall, government leaders who deal with corruption, etc. is common, and that trust should be replaced with cynicism (Bennis & Goldsmith).
How should we respond to such moral failures in our culture? Should we accept it as norm and give in to pessimism? Or should we believe that there are ways to bring reconciliation and redemption back to our wounded leaders?
We adore and respect people who are transformational leaders. Meaning, they are able to cast a vision so daunting, yet exciting, that they bring inspiration to make change happen. Their vision and dreams make these leaders seem way before their time. Martin Luther King and Winston Churchill are just two examples of leaders who spoke and cast great visions for the state of their people. We also honor leaders that we encounter in our everyday lives. People such as our pastors, our teachers, our managers, our coaches, our parents, and even our next door neighbors; they have leadership qualities that draws us closer to know more.
However, we forget that these individuals are not only leaders, but human beings like you and I. When they lead us in transformation from hurts, brokenness, suffering, stagnancy, and so on, they also are dealing with the same issues. Leaders are so intent on pouring and pouring and pouring into other people that they forget they are wounded as well, that we are wounded, and as leaders we need to be led and held accountable too.
Henry Nouwen, a theologian and minister, coined the term “Wounded Healer” for leaders in any aspect of ministry. He speaks to leaders of their church and community about a willingness to go beyond the professional role and leave themselves open as fellow human beings with the same wounds and suffering – in the image of Christ. In other words, we must link transparency and trust and heal from our own wounds. If we are not careful as leaders to be transparent and find accountability and mentors of our own, we will lead from a distance and evoke a hurt on our people that is not their burden to carry. If we allow it long enough, we could easily be an example of another moral failure, or corruption, or scandal.
Who is holding you accountable? Who is leading you?
Leadership is hard work and responsibility. It’s hard because we have to work on ourselves first. Then we have a responsibility to lead a team, a family, or a congregation while we are healed. We don’t have to have it altogether. In fact, perfection disqualifies you from leadership. Growth is the key. If we are not seeking healing of our own, we cannot fully lead in healing others. If we are not dealing with trust issues of our own, we cannot fully trust those that follow us. If we do not lead from transparency, we will lose so many people (especially millennials) to the pessismistic attitude that “no one really cares.”
So if you’re wondering what to do next if you are a wounded leader who feels isolated and alone, or a follower trying to understand why they are frustrated and burdened under the leadership of someone; two practical thoughts come to mind:
- As a leader, you need a leader! – What are the struggles you are dealing with? Find someone who “walks the walk” in that area that can help you! It takes courage to lead others. It takes even more courage to find help and face your own battles. That’s where true leadership takes place; with self. Let’s be faithful in our leadership by being consistent and always holding a mirror to our face and evaluating ourselves. Get a counselor. Find a mentor. Get coached. Have a prayer partner. Whomever you need, find them.
- Pray for your leaders! – Recognize that leaders are battling and waging wars that we often do not see. We need to protect them and cover them in prayer. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 says, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” Key word “WE” will live peaceful lives. If you are burdened under a leader who is two hard to bear…the best thing you can do for you is pray.
I will close with this quote from Pastor Larry Stockstill from his book, “The Remnant.” Be Blessed! Be Revealed!
“Mentoring, or fathering, is a basic human need, and no Christian is exempt from it. Jesus Himself needed the affirming word from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11, NIV)…Affirmation, however, is not optional, but totally necessary, for any person to function correctly.”